THE SPINDLE: PHOTO FUNDAMENTALS

The first of our Spindle learning series covers how to best capture your millinery creation with photography no matter your experience or camera, thanks to the talented Cessiah Henderson.


Hello, I’m Cessiah Henderson. I live in Geelong and work at my Mother’s (Victoria Henderson) beautiful millinery store Ruby & Leo. It’s such a lovely business to be part of, and I’m forever inspired by my amazing and talented Mother. Having completed the International Baccalaureate in 2008, one would think that Uni would be the next step for me. But the problems were always “What will I study?”, “Will I enjoy it?” and “Will it pay off?” I’m very creatively minded, and the idea of sitting behind a desk studying for years really did not appeal to me. Plus, I had a job I loved (and still do to this day)! 

Photography was my forte through school. In fact, I loved photography since I first got my hands on a camera at about 5 years old! I studied the ins and outs of it – I wanted to know everything there was to know. It was undoubtedly my favourite subject and investing in a good camera in 2006 really took my enthusiasm for it to the next level. I took part in a couple of short courses to gain some extra techniques and to learn how to get the most out of my camera. I have won a number of photography competitions over the years and have photographed weddings along with a host of other things.

In 2012 Mum asked if I’d like to study millinery with her at the Gordon Institute. At first I was a little sceptical, but being a creative person I thought maybe it could appeal to me. In the end I was very glad I made the decision to pursue it! Yes there were ups and downs (and fights with the sewing machine), but I learnt so much from the very talented Rebecca Share and now millinery is something that really excites me, just as photography does. 

So, I’m here to share some tips with you on photographing your beautiful millinery creations. I’ll keep it fairly simple and cover some of the most important techniques I have acquired over the years, these being: light, composition, focus and angles. If you can accomplish these basics then you will be able to take good photos, whether you are using a Digital SLR, a compact point-and-shoot camera or the camera on your mobile phone. I will also briefly touch on post-processing (editing).

Let’s start with light. It sort of goes without saying doesn’t it? Good light makes a good photo. For most photographers, “golden hour” is sunrise and sunset and it’s in those times that the warmest softest light is available. For hats it’s not integral that you shoot at these times (and it’s not really practical either). You really just need a good light source. The best light is natural light (from the sun).

If you are photographing your hats inside at home I suggest opening all the curtains/blinds and looking around your house to discover the places where the most light is available. For me there is a spot in our house that has big windows on both sides of the room and no backlight. Backlight can often make it difficult for your camera to figure out what it’s trying to capture. If there isn’t enough daylight available then the next best thing is warm light from lamps or lights in your home. You may have to move a lamp close to where you are photographing. 

Spending a little extra time on lighting can make all the difference. All photos: Cessiah Henderson


I strongly discourage the use of flash, unless you know how to use it properly by bouncing it off walls/the ceiling or using those big fancy umbrellas. Flash gives a very stark and artificial look to your photographs if used incorrectly and often you lose details of your subject matter by shooting with it. Not everyone feels this way about flash photography, but it’s my personal opinion that your photos will turn out much nicer and softer without it. Once you have found a good source of light you can move on to composition which we will discuss in the next Spindle blog.

NEXT: » The Spindle: Photography Composition & Focus

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Tags: Cessiah Henderson, millinery photography, the spindle

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